Borough Council approved a pilot project Monday that will allow the sale of beer and wine during the annual Summer’s Best Music Fest slated for June 3-4.
According to Borough Manager Tom Fountaine, the Downtown State College Improvement District submitted a special activity request for the event. The request included beer and wine sales during the festival, resulting in the DSCID’s request to waive the enforcement of the open container ordinances in the area designated for the event.
The festival will close down Calder Way from Garner to Pugh Street, according to the request filed with the borough. The closure will also include Heister Street and Locust Lane from East College Avenue to Wilson Alley.
DSCID Executive Director George Arnold said based on what the district has learned over the 10 years of hosting the festival, they sought out a management company that could grow the festival larger and bring in better acts and sponsorship dollars. They partnered with Lucky Dog Management, he said, which has experience running the AmeriServ Flood City Music Festival in Johnstown.
The proposal could be approved pending two conditions, Fountaine said: that DSCID submit a final plan for the event including a risk management plan and plans to control alcohol sales, and that the borough be held harmless from any claims that may arise from the event and be insured on all policies connected with the event.
Barriers would be created to keep the festival-goers within the boundaries of the festival, said Todd Wagner, of Lucky Dog Management, and the natural framework of the buildings would act as boundaries as well. Security would monitor incoming and outgoing attendees as well as policing for those attempting to bring inside alcohol out or outside alcohol in.
“This is about having a great event for adults to enjoy themselves,” Wagner said. “It does us no good if there will be matters that ruin the opportunity for others.”
Most council members were immediately supportive of the proposal, saying because it was a pilot project, they were willing to give it a try at least once.
“The idea of having an area around the festival so people know where they can carry containers and know where they can go strikes me as an excellent idea,” said Councilwoman Theresa Lafer.
Councilman Tom Daubert questioned the precedent set by allowing the project. Fountaine explained precedent was one of the reasons staff recommended the event as a pilot project with clearly defined measures and will evaluate the event once it is finished.
Arnold pointed to a a letter sent to the borough by the emergency services in Johnstown indicating the lack of alcohol-related incidents in the town during its own music festival over the past six years. The borough also received a letter from the College Heights Neighborhood Association showing its support for the project.
The proposal did have detractors, as resident Jim Shincovich called the council naive for thinking it would be a benefit for the community.
“It’s about the commercial sacrifice of the neighborhoods for the sale of alcohol and drunken people,” said Shincovich. “I think it’s appalling that council would support such a thing.”
Councilman Peter Morris said similar “dire predictions” were made when the council considered alcohol sales at The State Theatre, none of which have come true.
The project was unanimously approved by the council.